Allom, Thomas and Wright, Rev. G: CHINA, IN A SERIES OF VIEWS, DISPLAYING THE SCENERY, ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIAL HABITS OF THAT ANCIENT EMPIRE. London, n.d. Steel engraved title-pages, 2 ff., 27+96 pp.; 2 ff., 72 pp.; 68 pp.; 56 pp. 124 steel engraved plates plus engravings to title pages. 2 vols. 28x22 cm. Contemporary embossed red decorative cloth with gilt. Minor wear to edges and spine.
A fine example of steel-engraved book illustration, from the period of its greatest popularity. Thomas Allom was a prolific artist, who collaborated on a number of Fisher's successful ventures between the 1820s and 1850. The text was written by the Reverend George Newnham Wright, and contains a great deal of curious, if not always accurate, information on the Chinese whom Wright regarded as 'wrapt in the dark mantle of idolatry.'
The book is richly illustrated with a wide variety of views and scenes engraved by a team of thirty. Allom copied a number of original Chinese drawings from Sir George Staunton's collection. He also made use of amateur sketches made on the spot by Captain Stoddart of the Royal Navy, R. Varcham and Lieutenant White of the Royal Marines, who was in active service throughout the Opium War, using his talents as a watercolourist to record many places in the interior of China which were new to western eyes.
The book was a commercial success, and Allom presented a copy to the French King Louis-Philippe during a private audience in 1846, and the king pronounced himself 'highly gratified'.
Four volumes bound in two as is usual. This copy distinguishes itself in two ways. The first is that it is still bound in original red embossed cloth with an identical and pleasing gilt cartouche on the front of each cover showing a Chinaman holding a shoulder pole from which are balanced two baskets of flowers. It is very rare to see this work in such an original condition. It is usually found rebound. The second way this copy distinguishes itself is that it is a remarkably clean copy lacking the heavy foxing to the plates that plagues this work. There is minor soiling and some minor foxing to a few plates but, in general, very clean. The hinges of the book are tender and starting to crack where they join the text blocks (and require care when handling) but this is more than compensated by the work having its original covers.
This is the second, slightly later edition. A rare and pleasing copy of this famous illustrated work.
Subjects: Rare Books
Available, as of: 20/05/2019
Was item 215 in printed List 195.
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.